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A Hint of Remorse

By Gail WyliePublished 10 months ago Updated 10 months ago 10 min read


I loved her. From the very first day, when she walked into the classroom, I loved her. Throughout the whole 12 years that we attended school together, I loved her. I never told her, of course. I was far too shy for that. And she never really paid much attention to me. I was just one of the guys.

There was that one night. A whole bunch of us had jumped into Fred’s car after school and spent the evening roaming the countryside together. I offered to walk her to the door and took her books from her as we got out of the car. As we neared the door, I gritted my teeth, determined to be brave. As I passed the books to her, I leaned forward and kissed her. Just a simple kiss, but oh so sweet; the one I will carry with me for the rest of my life. Her eye widened in surprise as I stepped back. Oh no, she didn’t like it. Flaming with embarrassment I said a quick good night, turned and rushed back to the waiting car, thankful for the darkness that was hiding my shame.

And now she was here. Right across the room from me. I hadn’t seen her since our graduation. Obviously not only married, but also pregnant. I have to face the fact that it is too late for me. She had been out of my league throughout all those years, and now I have lost her for good.


The pain is excruciating. I reach up and gently run my fingertips against the bruised, reddened surface of my cheek, my mind curiously far away from my body. Thoughts of how men could ever choose to go into a boxing ring, knowing that they would suffer in this way, flash through my mind. For that is what my face had been the night before: my husband’s punching bag. And this morning, it wore the scars. I give my head a shake in an attempt to force myself to concentrate on my present situation. As I gaze at the reflected image of my two blackened eyes and swollen spit lip, I wonder how on earth I am going to be able to deal with my life, looking like this.

He was gone by the time I got up. We are supposed to be at my mothers, for our annual New Year’s Day dinner in an hour. Will he return in time? Will he even want to go? All I know is that I can’t go. There is no way I can show up at a family celebration looking like this.

As I dial the phone and wait for my mother to answer, my mind sweeps back to the party last night. It was the first real New Year’s Eve party I had ever had the chance to attend, complete with dancing, feasting and booze: lots of booze. Fancy cocktail drinks instead of the 12 pack of beer that I had become accustomed to. Charles was in a great mood, like he usually is when out in public.

The clock was nearing midnight when I first noticed the man across the room watching me. Why it was Sam. I hadn’t seen him since we graduated from high school. And here he was. What a surprise!

Sam was one of the good guys throughout our years together at school. One you could count to be there if you needed him. One who would help with anything you asked. Nothing romantic, of course. He wasn’t interested in me, but when I think back, he didn’t seem interested in any of the girls in our class.

There was that one night. A whole bunch of us had jumped into Fred’s car after school and spent the evening roaming the countryside together. When we pulled up in front of our house, Sam offered to walk me to the door and took my books as we got out of the car. As we neared the door, I turned and faced him, reaching for the books he was carrying. As my hands touched them, he leaned forward and kissed me. I was so surprised. It was the most beautiful kiss I had ever received. One I have carried with me in my memory ever since. But he must not have enjoyed it as he turned and rushed back to the car. I didn’t see him much after that.

And now he was here, right across the room. The countdown to midnight ended with a roar. Charles grabbed me around the waist, swung me in a circle and planted a kiss on my lips before rushing off and doing the same with every other woman he could get his hands on. In the meantime, Sam’s eyes met mine. We crossed the room and he bent his head to touch my lips with his. “Happy New Year Ashley,” he whispered.

“Happy New Year to you,” I replied as I stepped back with a smile. “It’s so good to see you.”

I could feel the icy rage emanating from Charles’s body as he came up behind me. “Get your coat,” he snarled. “We’re leaving.” Those were the only words he spoke for the rest of the night. He stared straight ahead at the road, without speaking, as I tried to explain who Sam was, but he wasn’t listening. I gave up and retreated into silence myself.


I glance at my wife across the room as I lay the telephone receiver back in its cradle. She is sitting in the rocking chair by the window, her body framed by the setting sun behind her. I smile at the peaceful picture this presents. Janice hadn’t been my first choice for a wife, but in the end, she been a good choice. We had created a wonderful life together, raising her three sons; offsprings of her first husband, who had died so needlessly in a car accident when they were just setting out in life. I always knew she wasn’t my first choice and that I wasn’t hers either. But it was okay. We made a good team.

She turns to look at me and asks, “who was that”?

“Elvira,” I reply. “She is at the reunion in the valley and suggested that we join her. It seems that the majority of the family is already there.” I hold my breath; hoping that she won’t want to go.

“That’s nice”, she replies, “but I really need to finish this sweater”, holding up the knitting in her hands. “The baby is due any day now and Penny wants to have it with her when she meets her first grandchild. But you go. After all it’s where you grew up. It will be nice for you to see all your old friends without me hanging around your neck like a millstone.”

“You’d never be a millstone” I reply, “but if you don’t mind. I would like to go. After all, this type of reunion doesn’t happen very often. You won’t mind if I leave early tomorrow morning for the day.”

“Not it all. I’ll look forward to hearing all about it when you get home.”

I have to admit that I feel guilty as I pull up onto the highway. I wasn’t the type of man who lied to his wife, and now I had done it. Not a full lie, of course. After all it was Elvira on the phone. But it was not the family who were asking me to join them. It was Ashley. Ashley had asked Elvira to call me, as she wanted to see me. After all these years, she wanted to see me. I couldn’t resist.


I scan the crowd as soon as I step into the gym, hoping that his sister had not only called him but also persuaded him to come to the reunion. My eyes meet with disappointment. He is not present. I sigh softly and look for a seat near the back of the room. I settle down and try to enjoy the band concert that is in progress. However, my mind is not on the music. Instead, I am trying to figure out exactly what I am doing. Why do I have this need to talk to a man who I hadn’t had anything to do with since we graduated from high school? Here I am, a happily married grandmother, acting like a silly teenager with a crush on the football quarterback. Or am I?

Yes, I had stayed with Charles until my youngest graduated from high school because I believed my children needed both of their parents. Staying meant protecting myself and my children from his rage that could erupt without warning at any minute. Staying meant walking on eggshells every minute of every day and changing my behaviour to meet his needs. Staying meant remembering that new year’s kiss, that had opened the door to the jealous rage that I never wanted to experience again. A new year’s kiss that I had never forgotten because it was the reminder of how careful I needed to be. A new year’s kiss that I felt I need to say thank you for, as it had made such a difference for me throughout the years I stayed with Charles. Yes, I had been free of him for a long time now, and my current husband Pete was so different. In many ways he was the exact opposite of Charles. I don’t need to talk to Sam to find another man or kindle a romance. I just need to say thank you.

Sam is the only one I can talk to, because he is the only one who knows about that kiss at New Years. The only one who knows how innocent it was. That kiss that opened the door to the reality of what kind of a situation I had put myself in. The reality of the extreme behaviors my husband was capable of using when jealousy overtook him. Behaviors I had never spoken about or shared with anyone. I need to get them out in the open: to let them go, once and for all.

The opening notes of Tequila bring me back to the present moment and I look up at the band on stage with a smile. Tequila! We had so much fun learning that tune when I was in the school band so many years ago and now the current students are also playing it. How wonderful!

The music is interrupted by the scraping sound of the chair moving beside me. I glance to the right and smile as Sam sits down beside me. “You came,” I said. “I’m glad. I need to talk to you.”


I still love her. After all these years, I still love her. I cannot look at that beautiful face without thinking “I love you.” Without feeling “I love you.” I try to concentrate on the words she is saying, but they don’t make any sense to me.

Thank you. Thank you? In the midst of the descriptions of the abuse she had suffered for years. The blanket of fear she had lived under. Thank you? After describing in detail the beating she had received after that new year’s kiss so many years ago? Thank you?

I want to wrap my arms around her and promise to protect her forever. I want to find that man and beat the pulp out of him. But that isn’t what she wants. She just wants me to know how much that kiss, so many years ago, meant to her. How that kiss had opened the door to the reality that she lived with, the reality that she had to deal with for her own safety as well as that of her children. How that kiss had warned her to be extremely cautious with any of the men she came in contact with, no matter how innocent she knew her relationship with them to be.

She doesn’t look at me as she talks. We are standing side by side by the school yard fence looking north over the wheat fields. Devoid of any emotion, her voice goes on, sharing the most painful experiences I have ever had to listen to. Experiences I never could imagine, much less expect anyone I knew having to go through. And here she is, the woman I love, telling me all.

Finally, it appears that she has said enough. She turns and looks directly at me. She says she is sorry for dumping all this on me. She hopes that she hasn’t shocked me, but she felt the need to get it out in the open with someone who could understand. With someone who knew how innocent that kiss had been. And the only person who knew that was me.

I open my mouth to admit that it wasn’t that innocent. That I wanted her. To admit that I loved her then and I love her now, but the words do not emerge. As I look into her eyes I realize that she doesn’t need me to change her story. She just needs me to listen and to understand. My words finally come. “You’re welcome.”

She looks up into my face as a slow smile twists the corners of her mouth. “There are times I wonder where we would be today if we hadn’t been so darn shy as teenagers.”

I grin back at her, realizing that she does understand. I don’t have to tell her anything. I reply “me too. We were awful weren’t we.”

We turn and walk slowly back to the school together. For the first time in our lives we are truly together and yet in ways still apart. It is all right

I glance around the schoolyard and then past it to the small village we had both grown up in. It had been our home for so many years, but it is no longer mine. The sky to the west is beginning to turn red. In my mind’s eye I see Janice silhouetted against last night’s sunset, so content as she knits in the rocking chair. I need to get home to her. I need to tell her how much I love her. I need to thank her for all the years she has given me.

I feel Ashley’s hand on my arm. I push it away, knowing that now I have much more important things to concentrate on. I’m going home.


About the Creator

Gail Wylie

Family therapist - always wanted to be a writer. Have published books on autism. Currently enjoying trying my hand at fiction. Loving the challenges of Vocal. Excited to have my first novel CONSEQUENCES available through Amazon.

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  • HandsomelouiiThePoet (Lonzo ward)10 months ago


Gail WylieWritten by Gail Wylie

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